President Barack Obama learned on Monday what can happen to presidents caught up in allegations of scandal: they have to address them instead of anything else. [...] A week ago, Obama was confronting a single investigative proceeding on Capitol Hill on the subject of the deadly attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, last September.The Washington Post's Dana Milbank:
It was attracting relatively little public attention outside conservative circles, and he could dismiss as partisan because only Republicans were pushing it.
On Monday he confronted the prospect of multiple probes, with those into the IRS backed by Obama's Democratic allies in Congress as Democrats moved quickly to show they were as concerned as Republicans about alleged IRS abuses.
On top of that, the AP is assessing options for legal action in response to the government's actions, said David Schulz, an attorney representing the AP.
Outrage is appropriate [on the IRS revelations], but Obama’s response did him little good because it failed to get him out in front of the scandal. Rather than taking quick action — firing those involved or opening an investigation with more teeth than the inspector general’s — he has left himself at the mercy of events, and will be called to respond as details dribble out.More analysis of the week's top stories below the fold.
This was exactly his problem with Benghazi. Obama correctly said in response to Pace’s multi-headed question that the squabble over the talking points is a “sideshow.” But his administration wrote the script for this sideshow by not getting the details out quickly.
Brian Dickerson at The Detroit Free Press:
The danger is that justifiable outrage over the IRS’s tactics will jeopardize its legitimate mission to weed out partisan campaign organizations attempting to fob themselves off as tax-exempt educational nonprofits. The number of organizations seeking tax-exempt status has doubled since 2010, when the U.S. Supreme Court authorized foundations chartered by corporations and labor unions to register for tax-exempt status so long as promoting or targeting electoral candidates was not their “primary purpose.”The Washington Post editorial board tackles the IRS issue:
It’s undisputed that a significant number of groups organized in the name of “tax fairness” or “defending the Second Amendment” have put their tax-exempt status in jeopardy by campaigning energetically for conservative candidates in Republican primary elections. Besides avoiding taxes, masquerading as a tax-exempt 501(c)4 organization such organizations to conceal the identity of donors seeking to promote candidates anonymously.
Any unequal application of the law based on ideological viewpoint is unpardonable — toxic to the legitimacy of the government’s vast law-enforcement authority [...]David Horsey at The Baltimore Sun looks at the Benghazi hysteria on the right:
The latest round of House hearings about the Benghazi incident provides a perfect example of how American politics has been warped and gummed up by bombastic, partisan extremism. A cool, methodical inquiry could well uncover serious mistakes and provide remedies so that future incidents can be thwarted before more American diplomats are killed in the line of duty. But the current generation of Republican lawmakers does not know how to do cool. Hot rhetoric more suited to a Glenn Beck tirade seems to be the only way they know how to communicate. [...]Frank Bruni on "our ceaseless circus":
It is a fever dream for Republicans to think they can bring down President Obama with this pipsqueak of a scandal. Possibly, though, they could do some harm to former-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the strongest Democratic prospect for the 2016 presidential election. A smartly targeted investigation might do that.
More likely, though, Republicans will continue to overreach and come off looking like hyper-partisan, blustering witch hunters.
Four Americans died in Benghazi, Libya: people with unrealized hopes, unfinished plans, relatives who loved them and friends who will miss them.Finally, Jonathan Bernstein's piece puts it all in perspective:
But let’s focus on what really matters about the attack and its aftermath. Did Hillary Clinton’s presumed 2016 presidential campaign take a hit? [...] Now we have a scandal at the Internal Revenue Service to factor in. And a scandal it is, in urgent need of a thorough investigation, which President Obama pledged at his news conference on Monday and which we’re very much owed.
But before we get a full account, let’s by all means pivot to the possible political fallout, politics being all that seems to matter these days. [...]
It never gets better and may in fact be getting worse: the translation of all of the news and of all of Washington’s responses into a ledger of electoral pluses and minuses, a graph of rising and falling political fortunes, a narrative of competition between not just the parties but the would-be potentates within a party. On issue after issue, the sideshow swallows the substance, as politicians and the seemingly infinite ranks of political handlers join us journalists in gaming everything out, ad infinitum.
Want a real Washington scandal — one worse than the (phony) Benghazi scandal and the (apparently real, but apparently limited) IRS scandals combined? Try the continuing, and possibly accelerating, obstruction of executive branch nominees by Senate Republicans.
Don’t think it’s a scandal? It’s pretty basic: Republicans, by abusing their Constitutional powers, are — deliberately, in several cases — preventing the government from carrying out duly passed laws. [...] Yes, I know that in the way Washington works, this kind of routine disruption of normal government procedures doesn’t qualify as a Scandal! But it should. And while it’s quite proper for those concerned about good government to be outraged by the IRS story, this one is a much bigger deal, and the facts of it are plain for all to see — in fact, the people responsible are openly bragging about what they’re doing.
Now that’s a scandal.